An Elevated Wagon In More Ways Than One

Scheduling meant that my 2016 Golf R would be swapped out for the intriguing 2017 Golf Alltrack. In one day I went from a 296 hp hot hatch to a rather more staid mode of transport with only 170 hp; but all was not lost as it turns out, the new Golf Alltrack is actually quite a fun drive. First let me explain what it is…..take a Golf Sportwagen, (formerly a Jetta Sportwagen) lift it 6.9 inches off the ground, give it some off-road under-body cladding as well as the 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system and you have a competitor for the Subaru Outback. TSK  TSK I hear you say, this isn’t as capable as the venerable Outback….or is it? True the Subaru has 8.5 inches of ground clearance giving it an immediate advantage but the base engine is a slow as a Lada full of elephants going uphill. Don’t get me wrong the Subaru Outback is a superb vehicle, I own one, except mine has the 265 hp six engine. The Alltrack, however, competes with the the base 4 cylinder Outback and ground clearance aside is a much better drive. Why?

VW uses the same 1.8 liter turbo 4 used on the Golf Sportwagon FWD and the VW Passat and having driven both, the engine works well. The turbo 4 puts out 170 hp, 5 hp less than the Subaru, however, VW has added an extra 15 lb ft for a total of 199 lb ft @1,600 rpm, whereas the Outback makes its 174 lb-ft at a heady 4000 rpm. Advantage VW. The 2017 VW Golf Alltrack is based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform, used across the Volkswagen Group. It’s lightweight, strong and new Alltrack features coil springs, telescopic dampers, an anti-roll bar in front and unlike the FWD Golf Wagon, a multi-link suspension in the rear. Our tester came a six-speed automatic dual-clutch DSG transmission and a six-speed manual version will be available next year. At this point a diesel option won’t be available until they come up with a urea injection system.


So How Does It Go?

The Alltrack is fun both on and off pavement, it’s predictable and for the most part the DSG provides swift changes. You can catch it out so we spent all of our time using the paddle shifters, which uses the torque to its best advantage. Sport mode tends to over rev the engine and it’s not necessary with such a fat torque band. The Alltrack rides fairly firmly and elicits little body roll in turns, and the AWD system never skipped a beat during a fairly big and rare storm that hit San Diego midweek. While most cars were spinning wheels from a stop light the Alltrack just surged forward calmly. The engine is very responsive, the steering very communicative and that all important fun factor is totally dialed in.

Off-road, however, is where the Alltrack was most surprising. We drove a truck trail north for 12 miles from Descanso, CA, which starts out as pavement and then becomes gravelly and twisty. it had rained the day before and the VW performed very well. Push hard into a corner and you feel the AWD and the electronic differential kick in, but except for some very mild under steer all is composed. We did manage to flick the tail out a couple of times but you feel the electronic nannies keeping you from plunging over the edge.

We know nobody cares how fast this car goes from 0-60……..or do you? So we strapped on the test equipment and recorded a 7.0 seconds to sixty which is 2.1 seconds faster than Subaru Outback and only a tenth off the Subaru 3.6R time of 6.9. Impressive indeed.


The Alltrack is available three trims: S, SE, and SEL. Our $27,770 Alltrack S with the DSG is very well equipped, with faux leather seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, and different driving modes including an Offroad mode. If you opt for the top-of-the-line SEL, you get full power front seats, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 18-inch wheels.
Outside, they have beefed up the looks and it works. The wheels have some plastic flaring, it has roof rails and side mirrors, and on our car the standard 17-inch aluminum wheels. During our week of commuting, running errands, hiking with the dogs, we averaged 22.4 mpg, a tad shy of the claims but I would expect the average owner to easily attain the EPA numbers. Cargo space is a bit less than the Subaru at 35.5 ft³, 73.3 ft³ with seat area, but we managed to squeeze in two 80 lb dogs with ease. Thanks to the AWD system the Alltrack weighs in at  some 300 pounds heavier than the Sportwagen.

Front seats are firm but very supportive in a Germanic way, and heated even in the base S model. Rear seat passengers get adequate room, the infotainment interface is easy to use and pair a phone to. The Alltrack comes with Apple Play, simply plug in your phone and it just works.

Should I Buy One?

Fed up of seeing so many SUVs and CUVs on the road, we are……..well, the Golf Alltrack provides a great alternative. It’s rugged, goes on and off road, is priced very reasonably and definitely has the fun factor that I would want. We’ll have to see if it has the chops to entice fiercely loyal Subaru customers to switch brands. Volkswagen has  done a very good job here because when our Subaru Outback is getting long in the tooth, I’d get one of these.

2017 Golf Alltrack Numbers

VEHICLE TYPE: Front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICES: $26,950
ENGINE TYPE: Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4
POWER: 170 hp @ 4500 rpm
TORQUE: 199 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Cargo volume: 30.4 ft³, 66.5 ft³ with seat area
Curb weight: 3,422 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 7.0 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 21.0 sec
Top speed: 125 mph
EPA city/highway driving: 22/25/30 mpg
Our Observed Fuel Economy  22.4 mpg